13 Nur 166 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra, “Tense Bossa”
I was in Albuquerque last week to visit my father, my aunts and a friend. Albuquerque has always been a second home to me, not only because my father has lived here for three years, but also because I’ve had relatives here my entire life. Lately when I’ve been coming here, I find myself comparing Albuquerque with Madison
One advantage Albuquerque has over Madison is that Albuquerque is more diverse as a city. Madison is pretty “lily-white” as cities go. Albuquerque has a very large Latino population. This includes both recent immigrants from Mexico, and others who can trace their family history in this area back three hundred years, before this area was considered part of the United States. There is also a strong Native American influence that can be felt, as there are over a dozen Indian pueblos in New Mexico.
Another advantage is that Albuquerque is full of beautiful vistas. The city straddles the Rio Grande River and runs east to the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, which tower roughly a mile above the city. Almost everywhere one turns, one can see a beautiful view of either the mountains or the valley. My father lives near West Bluff Park which looks over the Rio Grande River, and shows the entire east side of the city and the mountains in their full grandiosity.
Albuquerque is about twice the size of Madison. But Albuquerque is way more spread out than Madison is, occupying an area almost the same size as the city of Chicago. That’s partially because Albuquerque is a more car-oriented town than Madison. It’s laid out like many Southwestern cities, with lots of wide boulevards and commercial strips separated from bedroom communities. There are some walkable neighborhoods in of Albuquerque, mostly in the older sections, but this is more the exception than the the rule.
As a result, the city as a whole is less pedestrian friendly than Madison. In the neighborhoods I was in, there were fewer people on the street. I didn’t see a single house with a front porch. Indeed,many houses seem designed to isolate neighbors from each other. Patios tend to be in the backyard, shut off from other neighbors by cinder-block fences, and front entrances often are walled off from the front sidewalk. It’s almost feels like people want to shut themselves off from each other. I think such urban design actually makes the neighborhoods less safe. With fewer people on the street, there are fewer pairs of eyes and ears observing what’s going on.
I had the whole week off from work. The Sunday before I returned to work was the only full vacation day I spent in Madison. I found myself really appreciating the day. I went to Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse to do some journal writing. I ran into three people there that I knew–one of the baristas, one of my neighbors, and a former housemate from my old co-op. As it turned out, my former housemate and I were both looking for somebody to go to the Marquette Waterfront Festival, so we ended up going there together , At the festival, we ran into one of my current housemates and a number of other friends.
So I like Albuquerque, and the right set circumstances could possibly get me to move out there, but there’s a lot I’d miss in Madison.